The situation in higher education (HE) is undergoing a great deal of change, both in the UK and in other countries with large HE sectors.
Examples of major factors involved in this are;
  • firstly that governments are encouraging increasing numbers of people (of all ages, but mainly young people) to go to university.

  • secondly that disability legislation requires universities to make adjustments for many types of student.

  • thirdly, disability schemes are being subsumed into single equality schemes, calling for an ever wider range of inclusive practice.

  • finally, the context is one of increasing financial stringency within a perception of the HE sector as a market.

  • In an era of targets and branding, with students as customers, staff morale is often poor. Yet the challenge of equality and diversity legislation represents an opportunity for universities to improve the retention and attainment of students. The world of disability and learning difference has been developing policy for several years and producing a wealth of resources to back this up. What is now required is the removal of these policies and resources from behind the glass wall which retains them within the ‘special needs’ area.
    Adams and Brown (2006:187) conclude their book with a ‘manifesto for mainstreaming inclusive practice’.

    Here are the first three:
    1. Stop adopting practices which predominantly focus on adjustments and start thinking about inclusive curriculum and assessment design which offer all students choices that align with their abilities. All students are likely to benefit from the flexibility in time, mode and place that is often seen as the basis of making reasonable adjustments

    2. Engage disabled students in the debate that goes into curriculum design, so that inclusive practices are informed by authentic voices

    3. Think inclusively when designing assessment instruments, so that alternatives are built in at the outset which enable disabled students to have an equivalent assessment experience.
    In order to broaden the context, these proposals might be edited so that the second bullet point reads ‘Engage students in the debate’ and the third one ‘which enable all students to have an equivalent assessment experience’.

    Such aims do not require universities to start from scratch. In recent years, the UK alone has seen the development of a large number of national projects which are doing excellent work on producing learning and teaching resources; these are listed under Resources .

    This agenda is not about ‘dumbing down’ or diluting the core elements of HE. Research need not be the only location for innovative and creative thinking; new approaches to learning and teaching have great potential to make HE an arena where students of all types can succeed.

    The InCurriculum project differs from most of those listed under Resources in that it is focused on putting their ideas into practice. See About InCurriculum for a summary of its work.
    Adams M & Brown S (2006) Towards inclusive learning in higher education, London,Routledge